Look! There I am!!
Two exciting things on the writing front!
First, my story “Always One More Way” is officially out in Ploughshares! You can buy the issue here, and I hope you do. It’s an incredible honor to be in their pages.
Second, one of my stories will be in the upcoming Ghost-themed issue of Indiana Review! Every acceptance has been incredibly exciting, and this one feels really special for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a story I wrote after Margaux was born. I was genuinely worried I would have a baby, do what I needed to do for my MFA, and then never write again. For the first few months of her life, I was working almost exclusively on my novella, but in the last six months I’ve been back to writing short stories, and every word I’ve gotten on paper has felt like a small miracle. The fact that I have managed to write enough words to make a story feels like a giant miracle.
My transformation of person into mother has, as it has since Margaux’s birth, dominated my thoughts, and it keeps coming out in my writing. I worry that it’s boring for other people to read about, that people will roll their eyes when they see yet another woman writing about—well, domestic things. Women things. I’ve always written about marriage, and I worried about that then too, but babies seem like they run the risk of being even more boring. I’ve struggled to reconcile my identity of mother with my identity of writer. I’ve been afraid that when I had my baby, I turned in my artist card, that I register now as a non-entity in the the circle of writers and artists. I know, too, that so many women feel the opposite—that their womanhood is invalid because they don’t want children—and I hate that for all of us.
Recently, an essay by Claire Vaye Watkins in Tin House has been making the rounds, and though all of it is worth reading, one section was particularly resonant for me. She writes:
About a year ago I had a baby, and while my life was suddenly more intense, more frightening, more beautiful, more difficult, and more profound than it had ever been, I found myself with nothing to write about.
“Nothing’s happening to me,” I bemoan to Annie. “I need to go shoot an elephant.”
Annie replies, in her late-night Lebowskian cadence, “Dude, you’re a mother. You’ve had a child. You’re struggling to make your marriage work, man. You are trying, against your nature and circumstance, to be decent. That’s your elephant!” Yet when I write some version of this down it seems quaint or worse. I thought I had enough material for a novel but when it came out it was a short story, and one that felt unserious. I tried a story in the form of a postpartum-depression questionnaire and it felt quaint. Domestic. For women. Motherhood has softened me. I have a tighter valve on what I’ll read and what I’ll watch. I don’t want to write like a man anymore. I don’t want to be praised for being “unflinching.” I want to flinch. I want to be wide open.
I do too. I want to remember what a gift it is to see the world with the eyes I have, to write through the experiences I’ve had, as an artist, as a mother, as the particular person I get to be. And I want the same for you! I want to celebrate the flinching and the vulnerabilities and the delicate little lady feelings I have about the world. The things I have been writing after Margaux was born have felt important to me, and the fact that one of those pieces, a story about motherhood, caught someone’s eye in the slush pile out in Indiana is an encouragement that other people feel they’re important too.
Anyway, my story in Indiana Review will be out in their Summer 2016 issue, and please check out the most recent issue of Ploughshares!